Monday, February 28, 2011

Castles in the Snow

The snow that was rumored to be coming to San Francisco this past weekend never arrived.

Frost did blanket our neighborhood across the bay, killing a squash plant we planted in the garden too early. The rest of the garden is hanging in there so far.

Since I'm an optimist, I'm using the bummer of a dead plant to contemplate happier snowy times. I didn't grow up with snow, so I get excited each time I have the opportunity to visit it. That's one of the reasons I like to vacation in cold places during the winter.

Dunnottar Castle sits on on an eastern cliff overlooking the sea along the lower Highlands of Scotland. Because of its location on a cliff high above the ocean, the castle was once a well-protected fortress that could only be accessed via a steep walking path. Today the same path leads visitors to the historic site. Only now, the castle lies in ruins.

Visiting the Dunnottar Castle ruins after a snowstorm was one of the most inspiring trips to a monument I've experienced. It's a good thing it required so much hiking to get there; otherwise I probably would have frozen. Since I survived without any effects that a cup of tea couldn't cure, the castle's cliffs became one of the settings in the mystery novel I began to write shortly after that winter visit. 

The grounds are full of mystery even when it isn't snowing. Between the fierce sea, the jagged cliffs, and the stone structures that await you at the summit, it's enough to inspire the imagination at any time.

It's especially fun to visit the ruins when the site isn't crowded, but that also means putting up with the off-season weather. During the trip where I took the non-snowy photos above, the wind nearly blew me over on several occasions as I hiked the coastal path along the cliffs.

I learned an important lesson that day -- fingerless gloves are a great friend to the photographer.



  1. The thought of going somewhere COLD for the fun of it gave me goosebumps. I moved to Vermont when I was 21 and lived there for 26 years. Long winters -- sometimes at 40 degrees below zero -- helped me to appreciate the South, where I've lived now for 18 years. I love the stories I can tell now of snowdrifts higher than the eaves and snowfalls three feet deep, but I'll take Scotland in the summer, thank you. I do love your photos of it, though. Even with the snow.

  2. I do count my blessing I don't live somewhere cold full time. But rain and snow are just so much more interesting than the sun!